Central China’s Henan province swamped after heaviest rain in 1,000 years

Central China’s Henan province swamped after heaviest rain in 1,000 years
From the evening of Saturday until late Tuesday, 617.1 millimeters of rain fell in Zhengzhou, above, almost on par with its annual average of 640.8mm. (AFP)
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Updated 21 July 2021

Central China’s Henan province swamped after heaviest rain in 1,000 years

Central China’s Henan province swamped after heaviest rain in 1,000 years
  • The lives of millions of people in Henan have been upended in an unusually active rainy season

BEIJING: Large swathes of China’s central Henan province were under water on Wednesday, with at least a dozen people dead in its capital Zhengzhou after the city was drenched by what weather watchers said was the heaviest rain in 1,000 years.
With more rain forecast across Henan for the next three days, the government of Zhengzhou, a city of over 12 million on the banks of the Yellow River, said 12 people were reported to have died in a flooded subway line, while more than 500 were pulled to safety.
Video on social media on Tuesday showed commuters chest-deep in murky floodwaters on a train in the dark and an underground station turned into a large, churning pool.
“The water reached my chest,” a survivor wrote on social media. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air supply in the carriage.”
Due to the rain, the authorities halted bus services, as the vehicles are powered by electricity, said a Zhengzhou resident surnamed Guo, who spent the night at his office.
“That’s why many people took the subway, and the tragedy happened,” Guo said.
From the evening of Saturday until late Tuesday, 617.1 millimeters (mm) of rain fell in Zhengzhou, about 650 kilometers southwest of Beijing. That’s almost on par with Zhengzhou’s annual average of 640.8mm.
The amount of rainfall in Zhengzhou witnessed over the three days was one seen only “once in a thousand years,” local media cited meteorologists as saying.
The lives of millions of people in Henan, a province with a population of around 100 million, have been upended in an unusually active rainy season that has led to the rapid rise of a number of rivers in the vast Yellow River basin.
Many train services across Henan, a major logistics hub in central China, have been suspended. Many highways have also been closed and flights delayed or canceled.
Roads in a dozen cities have been severely flooded.
“Flood prevention efforts have become very difficult,” President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday, addressing the situation in a statement broadcast by state television.
Dozens of reservoirs and dams also breached warning levels.
Local authorities said the rainfall had caused a 20-meter breach in the Yihetan dam in Luoyang city west of Zhengzhou, and that the dam “could collapse at any time.”
In Zhengzhou, the local flood control headquarters said the city’s Guojiazui reservoir had been breached but there was no dam failure yet.
About 100,000 people in the city have been evacuated to safe zones.
Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn operates a plant on the outskirts of Zhengzhou, next to the city’s airport, that assembles iPhones for Apple. It said there was no direct impact on its facility, but had activated an emergency response plan.
SAIC Motor, China’s largest automaker, said logistics at its Zhengzhou plant would see some short-term impact, while Japan’s Nissan said production at its Zhengzhou factory had been temporarily suspended.
Zhengzhou’s transportation system remained paralyzed, with schools and hospitals cut off by waterlogging. Some children have been trapped in their kindergartens since Tuesday.
Residents caught in the flood had taken shelter in libraries, cinemas and even museums.


Taliban and Afghan forces clash again outside Herat city

Taliban and Afghan forces clash again outside Herat city
Updated 23 sec ago

Taliban and Afghan forces clash again outside Herat city

Taliban and Afghan forces clash again outside Herat city
  • Violence has surged across Afghanistan since early May, when the Taliban launched a sweeping offensive
  • The militants have seized scores of districts across Afghanistan, including in Herat province

HERAT, Afghanistan: Afghan and Taliban forces clashed again on the outskirts of Herat Saturday, a day after a police guard was killed when a United Nations compound in the western city came under attack.
Violence has surged across the country since early May, when the Taliban launched a sweeping offensive as US-led foreign forces began a final withdrawal that is now almost complete.
The militants have seized scores of districts across Afghanistan, including in Herat province, where the group has also captured two border crossings adjoining Iran and Turkmenistan.
Officials and residents reported renewed fighting on the outskirts of Herat Saturday, with hundreds fleeing their homes to seek shelter closer to the heart of the city.
Herat governor Abdul Saboor Qani said most of the fighting was in Injil and Guzara district — where the airport is located.
“At the moment the fighting is ongoing in the south and southeast. We are moving cautiously and to avoid civilian casualties,” Qani said.
During fighting Friday, the main Herat compound of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan came under attack from rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire that the UN blamed on anti-government elements.
The militants say they will not target foreign diplomats, but have blatantly violated international protocol before.
Afghan forces and militiamen of veteran warlord and anti-Taliban commander Ismail Khan have been deployed around the city of 600,000 in recent days.
Khan, who previously fought the Soviet occupation forces in the 1980s and then the Taliban during their hard-line regime in the 1990s, has vowed to fight the insurgents again to counter their staggering advances in recent months.


Ex-general takes aim at UK PM’s Afghan ‘silence’ 

Ex-general takes aim at UK PM’s Afghan ‘silence’ 
Updated 15 min 45 sec ago

Ex-general takes aim at UK PM’s Afghan ‘silence’ 

Ex-general takes aim at UK PM’s Afghan ‘silence’ 
  • Gen. Lord Richards: “Ungoverned space” will create opportunities for terror groups

LONDON: A former head of the UK armed forces has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to outline the country’s strategy for Afghanistan as the war-torn nation slides into further conflict amid the Taliban’s advance.
Gen. Lord Richards, former chief of defense staff, said he is “fed up” with the government’s lack of planning for the next stage of supporting Afghanistan, where he served as the commander of coalition forces between 2006 and 2007. He lamented the West’s “defeat” in the country. 
With Western forces lined up to be fully removed by Sept. 11, Richards warned of the potential creation of an “ungoverned space” that could be exploited by terror groups for the planning of atrocities such as the 9/11 attacks.
He told the BBC that he takes a “share of the blame” for the West’s calamitous performance in Afghanistan, but that while NATO military force — chiefly from the US and Britain — largely achieved what was expected, politicians had failed to give Afghanistan sufficient economic and political support following the 2001 removal of the Taliban from power. 
“We have invested — as a country, as the West and the US particularly — 20 years of time and much money and many lives in Afghanistan,” said Richards.
“I’m getting a little bit fed up that I’ve not heard from our government — indeed from the prime minister — as to why we have reached this nadir. It’s really not good enough, and I would like to hear from the government — I think it’s a prime ministerial obligation now — as to why we’ve got into this position and what we are now going to do about it,” he added.
“It’s deflecting attention from our defeat. Added to what happened in Iraq, Libya, Syria, it’s a pretty sorry tale of Western failed geo-strategy over the last 20 years. And it’s time we had an explanation of why and what are we now going to do about it, to prevent it from happening in the way we all now fear might occur.”
The decorated former officer complained that following the invasion, the UN conducted a “light-touch” approach masterminded by envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, which meant the West failed to build on the military gains of 2001. 
Richards said the short supply of economic support meant that the Taliban returned as a threat five years later.
“As all soldiers will tell you, we know we can’t win these things by military means alone. What we hoped we were doing was providing an opportunity for governments, the whole of the West, to act in the way they needed, not just militarily but politically and economically,” he added.
“That didn’t happen … At the very moment, in 2002 to 2005, when the West should have poured in assets — and I’m talking primarily non-military by the way — we didn’t do so. The Taliban sensed an opportunity, they came back.”
Richards warned that the Taliban’s capture of Kandahar — Afghanistan’s second city — is “inevitable” without a change in strategy, which would lead to the group sweeping across the south of the country. 
“My biggest worry at the moment is, with the Western forces having pulled out with no adequate explanation of what is going to replace them, we are going to see a potential collapse in Afghan Armed Forces morale,” he said, adding that the resurgence of Taliban control would “almost certainly” facilitate the return of terror training camps.
“There will be ungoverned space … and in that ungoverned space terrorist acts may yet again be planned and executed,” warned Richards.
“I think we all forget too readily the scenes of 9/11, the Twin Towers and the attack in Washington. That is actually why we went into Afghanistan, and we’ve been spectacularly successful in achieving what we aimed to do,” he added.
“That is now being put at risk, along with all the wonderful gains in terms of education, health, and democracy, allowing people to hope for the future. All that is now, I’m afraid at great risk. We don’t have a substitute strategy and I want to hear what it should be.”


Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge
Updated 31 July 2021

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge
SHIMULIA: Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers rushed back to major cities Saturday, besieging train and bus stations, after the government said export factories could reopen despite a deadly coronavirus wave.
With the economy badly hit by the pandemic, the government excluded the factories that supply top brands in Europe and North America from a nationwide lockdown order.
Authorities had ordered factories, offices, transport and shops to close from July 23 to August 5 as daily coronavirus infections and deaths hit record levels.
Officially, Bangladesh has reported 1.2 million cases and more than 20,000 deaths. Experts say the real figures are at least four times higher.
The government said however that the country’s 4,500 garment factories, which employ more than four million people, can reopen from Sunday, sparking a rush back to industrial cities.
The influential garment factory owners had warned of “catastrophic” consequences if orders for foreign brands were not completed on time.
Hundreds of thousands who had gone back to their villages to celebrate the Eid al Adha Muslim festival and sit out the lockdown, headed to Dhaka in any available transport — some just walking in the monsoon rain.
At the Shimulia ferry station, 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Dhaka, tens of thousands of workers waited hours for boats to take them to the capital.
Garment factory worker Mohammad Masum, 25, said he left his village before dawn, walked more than 30 kilometers (20 miles) and took rickshaws to get to the ferry port.
“Police stopped us at many checkpoints and the ferry was packed,” he said.
“It was a mad rush to get home when the lockdown was imposed and now we are in trouble again getting back to work,” Jubayer Ahmad, another worker, told AFP.
Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garment exporter after China and the industry has become the foundation of the economy for the country of 169 million people.
Mohammad Hatem, vice president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said up to $3 billion worth of export orders were at risk if factories had stayed closed.
“The brands would have diverted their orders to other countries,” Hatem told AFP.

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge
Updated 31 July 2021

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge
  • Lockdown began Saturday and is set to last until Aug. 8, despite opposition from the federal government and the local business community

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities have imposed a lockdown in the southern Sindh province, including the commercial hub of Karachi and other urban centers, amid an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases.
The lockdown began Saturday and is set to last until Aug. 8, despite opposition from the federal government and the local business community.
Sindh’s chief minister Murad Ali Shah said Friday that a sudden rise in virus cases has flooded hospitals in Karachi, the provincial capital. The new surge appears linked to many of the crowd-attracting activities earlier this month during the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha.
The Sindh provincial government is closing all markets, except for pharmacies, bakeries, gas stations and grocery stores, which still must close by 6 p.m. All transport between cities is halted and public busses aren’t operating. Private cars and taxis are limited to two people.
Ongoing examinations at schools and universities are also postponed until after the lockdown.
Nationwide, Pakistan on Saturday reported 65 deaths and 4,950 new virus cases in the past 24 hours. The South Asian country has reported 1,029,811 confirmed cases and 23,360 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.


COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest

COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest
Updated 31 July 2021

COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest

COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest
  • 210 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 reported in Sydney and vicinities
  • Lockdown, to last at least until the end of August, spurred violent demonstrations last weekend

MELBOURNE: Sydney’s coronavirus cases continued to surge on Saturday as police cordoned off the city’s central district, preventing a planned anti-lockdown protest from taking place.
There were 210 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 reported in Sydney and vicinities that are under a weeks-long strict lockdown while battling an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant. Saturday’s numbers bring the outbreak to 3,190 cases.
The lockdown, to last at least until the end of August, spurred violent demonstrations last weekend, with protesters vowing to return to the streets on Saturday.
But the police closed train stations, banned taxis from dropping passengers off downtown and deployed 1,000 officers to set up check points and to disperse any groups.
Australian media reported that the rally’s organizers urged their followers on Saturday to avoid gathering and regroup on a later date.
A late-July poll by the NSW-based market research firm Utting Research showed that only 7 percent of the people support the demonstrations. Compliance with public health rules has been one of the key cited reasons behind Australia’s success in managing the pandemic.
Despite its struggle with spikes of infections, mostly of the Delta variant, Australia has managed to keep its epidemic largely under control with a total of just over 34,000 cases and 924 deaths.
The country has struggled significantly with its vaccination rollout, with the government indicating on Friday it will be months before Australia’s borders reopen. [
In Sydney, there are 198 people in the hospital, 53 of them in intensive care and 27 requiring ventilation, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. There was also one death reported, bringing the total number of deaths in the outbreak to 14.
Parts of the neighboring state Queensland entered into a three-day snap lockdown on Saturday after the state recorded six new coronavirus cases of the Delta strain, putting a number of football, rugby and other sporting events into a limbo.
“We have seen from the experience in other states that the only way to beat the Delta strain is to move quickly, to be fast and to be strong,” the state’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said. “That is now the nationally agreed approach.”